Larry and Liz Ruffner pointed at each other without hesitation when The Observer asked them what was their best memory of the Rainbow Road Club. Liz recalled the night back in 1997 that she first visited the club to compete in a Patsy Cline singing style karaoke contest. “There were 13 girls and I didn’t win. But I got the prize,” she said, pointing at her husband Larry. Liz has continued to sing and now packs the room here and elsewhere with her Patsy Cline tribute show.
If you drive south on Route 340 from Charles Town, you’ll see the club on the right, just before you hit the state line. It’s a country place — a pool hall and bar are the first things you’ll see when you walk in the front door, if you don’t get distracted by the pictures and memorabilia that seem to cover every inch of the walls (and a lot of the ceiling). Beyond the cozy front room is the main room that easily fits 300 people around the large dance floor in the center.
When Larry’s parents, Louis and Ellen Mae Ruffner, purchased the club in 1984 it had long been known as the the Orchard Inn (old maps show an orchard behind the building, so the name fit) and then briefly the Country Palace in the 1970s. In 1985, Hollywood came calling, using the club as a set for Sweet Dreams, the movie about Patsy Cline starring Jessica Lange. Patsy Cline had sung at the Orchard Inn in the 1950s, but the movie director styled the club “Rainbow Road” for the movie, after a club (long closed) in Cline’s native Winchester where she also sang in the 50s. Larry remembers that the Rainbow Road set included a giant horseshoe bar in the middle of the room. The Ruffners kept the name but took out the big bar — “it got in the way of the dancing,” recalled Larry.
The Rainbow Road Club has music booked every weekend in February. The Route 340 widening plan puts the path of the new road through the front of the building, but the Ruffners have not yet received a firm schedule for the construction, so they plan to stay open as long as possible.
Address: 137 Berryville Pike (Route 340), Charles Town. Menus and show details are posted on their Facebook page (@RainbowDiner340).By Steve Pearson